FocusEurope adipate plasticizer demand to boost adipic acid growth

24 October 2013 11:45  [Source: ICIS news]

By Mark Victory

LONDON (ICIS)--Adipate plasticizers are seen as a key growth area for end-use European adipic acid (ADA) demand, as they continue to replace phthalate plasticizers, sources said this week.

Several buyers and sellers forecast that ADA consumption growth in 2014 will increase by around 2-3% from 2013. This will be primarily driven by macroeconomic recovery in the shoe-sole sector, but plasticizer substitution is also expected to boost demand in 2014.

“The plasticizer business increased because of the replacements of the phalate-free plasticizers, and auto recovery. [We] expect another 2-3% [growth] in 2014,” an ADA buyer said.

This is because of toxicity fears linked to phthalate chain plasticizers, in particular dioctyl phthalate (DOP). DOP has been included in the EU Candidate List and is likely to be phased out by February 2015 under Reach legislation.

The substitution of adipate plasticizers in place of phthalate plasticizers is an ongoing process and first began in 2011, sources said.

“Adipate plasticizers [are] doing quite well, that's [been an] ongoing development over 24 months. [It’s] difficult to judge, but generally the plasticizer market is developing well,” an ADA producer said.

Phthalates are being phased out of some products in the EU, US and Canada because of concerns that they could pose a threat to human health.

Since 1 July, producers of paediatric medical devices have been banned in France from having phthalates in their products.

Poland's Zaklady Azotowe Kedzierzyn (ZAK) has initiated an investment project for the construction of a phthalate-free-plasticizer installation, likely to have a capacity of 50,000 tonnes/year, which will launch in 2015, the company announced on 28 August. The company is the sole Polish producer of oxo-alcohols and plasticizers. It currently operates a plant that produces 60,000 tonnes/year of DOP plasticizers at its production complex in Kedzierzyn-Kozle, southern Poland.

In June, specialty chemicals producer Evonik said it had started production of phthalate-free plasticizer 1,2 cyclohexa dicarboxylic acid diisononyl ester at its complex in Marl, Germany.

French specialty chemicals producer Arkema will cease production at its Chauny, France site in early 2014, a company spokesperson confirmed on 20 September.

The Chauny site is part of Arkema’s acrylic monomers business unit, and produces material for the plasticizers and resins markets. The site has a capacity of 70,000 tonnes/year of DOP and 90,000 tonnes/year of phthalic anhydride (PA), and also produces diethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP) and fumaric acid, according to the spokesperson.

She said: “In recent years, there has been a significant decline in market demand for these products due to the structural decline in the market for resins and plasticizers in Europe, as well as to strong competition from alternative products.”

In reaction, a reseller said that there is no future for DOP, and the remaining European producers are likely to switch to other plasticizers in an increasingly competitive market environment.

Another producer noted at the time that many customers have already switched to other plasticizers, and said the closure of the Chauny unit would not create a shortage of DOP, as there is sufficient domestic and imported supply to meet existing demand.

A further plasticizers source said that the closure of Arkema’s plant was “the last nail in the DOP coffin”.

Plasticizers have a wide range of end-uses including carpets, floor coverings, footwear soles and wallpaper. The majority of plasticizers are consumed by the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) industry.

ADA demand in 2013 has been broadly stable with 2012, according to market estimates. ADA margins have been weak throughout 2013, both for producers and buyers, which has resulted in several plant shutdowns directly linked to poor profitability. One of the major causes of poor margins has been persistent weak demand.

Additional reporting by Tom Brown, Will Conroy and Sam Weatherlake

By: Mark Victory
+44 208 652 3214

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